Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Our City Improvement Trust Board, now 104.


The following is a reproduction of my own article published in Star of Mysore, May 2007. It was for the occasion of the Centenary of the formation of "Improvement Trust Board", which is now called the "Mysore Urban Development Authority". 

I found out in my collection of old letters that my great grandfather K.Mylar Rao was Chairman of it soon after he retired. Find that letter at the bottom and do not miss the expansions of CITB and MUDA (shown in red in the last para - they came spontaneously!)

When I 'googled' for his name, I was glad MUDA still has it on its records, here:



In the early 19th century, Mysore was confined within the limits of Hale Agrahara, the Fort, Dodda Petta and Lashkar Mohalla. Municipal activity began sometime during the reign of HH Krishnaraja Wadiyar III about the mid 19th century. As decades passed and the town gradually evolved into a city, there reached a stage when the need was felt for a separate body that could handle the city's development, improvement and health matters.

The deadly epidemic Plague struck Mysore and took a heavy toll of life, esp. in 1898. The root cause was poor sanitation and unhealthiness. It was a grave public concern. The Municipality, with the help of the Plague Commissioner, tried to combat future ravages. Spreading the populace apart, opening out lanes and streets in congested localities and creating extensions seemed the best answer. It required heavy expenditure. By the time plans took shape, HH Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV had ascended the throne (1902). The inadequacies of the Municipality's resources to handle the demands of such crises, surfaced. The Government of H.H. Maharaja came to the rescue by appointing a committee with the Chief Engineer as the President to formulate proposals for the improvement of the city.

Improving sanitation and removing unhealthiness in the city received prime attention. During the first (1894-1902) of two important stages in Mysore's sanitary history, a Sanitary Division under Mr.Standish Lee, was established by Dewan Sir K.Seshadri Iyer. It is pertinent to mention some of the works carried out during this period before the creation of the City Improvement Trust Board:

- A portion of Purnaiah's Nalla, a deep drain cut by the former Dewan to lead water from the Cauvery to the town, which was a source of unhealthiness, was filled. This is now the Sayyaji Rao Road.
- The ditch around the Fort was filled and was converted into a park.
- Main sewers serving the KR Mohalla and Devaraj Mohalla were laid.
-Chamarajapuram (called after HH Chamarajendra Wadiyar), the first important and successful measure carried out in extending the town, was constructed.
- The supply of wholesome drinking water by a system of water pipes from the Kukkarahalli Reservoir and from the Cauvery by pumps worked by turbines. This was a material step in the interest of the general health of the city.

The second stage (1902-10), coincided with the beginning of what became the 'golden reign' of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar. Many important developments took place in right earnest, following the passing of Mysore Improvements Regulation III of 1903. Work was pushed forward vigorously by the "Trust Board", under the able officers lent from the Government Public Works Department. Mr.Seetharama Rao was the Chairman and Mr.D'Cruz was the Executive Engineer. The Mysore City Municipality was governed by Regulation VII of 1906 (Mysore Municipal Regulation). It was also a Corporation with a President as its head. He was also the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Improvement of the City of Mysore. The Health Officer was the Vice-President in Sanitary Matters. It is worthwhile to quote excerpts of the Govt. Order No.4168-79.L.F.3602, dated 18.9.1902. The general lines on which improvements designed were:

"The slums of the city, wherever they exist, should be first improved, by knocking down unsanitary buildings, providing against overcrowding, bad drainage and otherwise defective sanitation. Proper quarters should be found for surplus population from such localities, and such assistance as is possible and reasonably practical should be extended to poor people for building proper houses. A comprehensive scheme for proper drainage should be devised, not necessarily with a view to attain theoretical, but impractical, perfection, but to meet the reasonable needs of the city."

Accordingly, unsanitary areas were removed en bloc in some localities, all the narrow lanes were widened, conservancy lanes opened for the facility of drainage, many low-lying and ill ventilated houses dismantled, and extensions were formed to provide room for the displaced population. Drainage facility was made possible practically for every house.

Up to 1911-12, the Trust Board acquired about 6,000 properties including open areas, of which 3,616 were houses, paid Rs.13.5 lakhs as compensation, spent Rs.9 lakh in drainage work and other improvements were of the highest beneficial utility and added much to the comforts, convenience and the health of the public. In 1911, Mysore had a population of 71,306 as to 68,111 in 1901. The city was divided into seven mohallas: Fort, Lashkar, Devaraja, Krishnaraja, Mandi, Chamaraja and Nazarbad. In 1913-14, there were 12,122 houses, out of which 701 were terraced, 10,838 were tiled and 583 thatched.

The appearance of Plague gradually waned away as the city's design as well as healthiness, noticeably improved, thanks to the excellent work carried out by the Trust Board. Time-honoured housing requirements, where each family needed a house with a compound or backyard attached for outhouses, cattle, etc., necessitated the creation of extensions for housing those displaced by the demolition and rearrangement of parts of the city. The work of acquisition and demolition of properties, for opening conservancy lanes, leaving air spaces, admitting light and removing congestion was completed in Ittigegud, Nazarbad, Fort and Lakshmipuram (built on the site of Old Dodda Holageri, for some time a hot-bed of plague, etc.). Edgah extension was also created.

By then, Sir M. Visvesvaraiah was the Dewan and also the Chief Engineer of Mysore. It was under his leadership that saw the system of drainage undergoing a complete change. From his vast experience, he favoured the underground drainage system that worked by gravity, to open surface drains. Many of those are still functioning - an example of "made to last" quality! The sullage water from every house in this system was directly connected to the underground street sewer and the whole sewage was brought down to one common out-fall in the valley below Doddakere, where it was treated for purification in a septic tank, and the effluents were utilized for agricultural purposes.

For many years, the CITB offices were located at the Rangacharlu Memorial Hall (Town Hall). CITB (now MUDA) built its own office buildings on Jhansi Laxmi Bai Road in the early 70s, at the very place where a very old, dilapidated set of 'dungeons' (rumoured to have had an underground secret tunnel), existed. (Is that why the 'underground dealings' still prevail in the area?).

Is Corruption Impossible TBanish (CITB) from Mysore's Ultimate Defraud Authority (MUDA)? That is the common man's FAQ! But when someone like Mr. Pankaj Kumar Pandey comes and tries to answer it, in as transparent a manner that would have pleased Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, he is quickly packed off! Preserving such persons to serve the public would only serve the real purpose of the Authority. Let us wildly hope that, even in this 'kaliyuga era', there will be more of Seetharama Raos and Pandeys at its helm!


[Reference source for information: Handbook of the City of Mysore, 1915, by T.G.Lakshmana Rao, a complimentary copy given to K.Mylar Rao who in his diary from 1924 mentions his schedule "Trust Board meeting".  I later found this letter of appointment that indicated that he would take over as Chairman of the Trust Board from Sri Srikanteshwara Iyer!].  

(Click to enlarge and read)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Books that 'nostalgiate' my childhood

There will be some little things we want to keep for life just to ‘nostalgiate’ childhood because of the strong impression they create on the very young mind.  This small picture-story book in particular, is one of a few.

It was a Russian publication with English usage, a cartoon book for children with beautiful drawings that was so 'real'.  This book had to be open almost each time when my mother fed me morsels of food forcibly with the spoon.  Morsels of food or water dropped on its pages as I had to be looking at it in that process.  I never remember the book to be in 'mint condition' but torn at many places at the edges or pages loose with repeated use.  Later it was further damaged by careless handling by others and most of its pages gradually disappeared! After many years, just a page or two remained and there came a stage when they too were untraceable! Somehow my memory of this beautiful book has never faded. 

My elder daughter was repeating what I did – being cranky when it came to feeding morsels of food and many methods had to be thought of, but showing books at that time usually was a wee bit easier and quicker for the mother, among other things which included me taking her for a small round on the bicycle for one morsel!

A book exhibition arrived in the early 90s. We had gone there with the little kid.  My glance at the children's books on the shelf was suddenly stopped when my eye spotted this one, my favourite that had 'vanished'.  It was now translated to Kannada from Russian and English.  It testified how popular that book has been for decades, perhaps all over the world.  I hope it is still published!  The child in me jumped out and without a second thought, it was 'added to the cart', as we say nowadays in times of 'online shopping'! It was a fresh replacement to the one that had had given me hundreds of hours of pleasure.  I had lost hopes of seeing it again.  Her sister who 'arrived' later also loved to often play with this beautifully illustrated book which was such a joy to watch.   It is a timeless book.  

Another big book was being shown to me at that time during the meal-feeding sessions.  It was heavy, old and hard bound (it was a rebound book sans the first 4-5 pages) and in reasonably good condition.   A sample of a page showing food-stains is seen in this picture: 

A few  years ago when I was at another book exhibition, a beautiful book titled ‘Glimpses of India’ by J.H.Furneaux, caught my attention.  It was a reprint of the 1895 edition.  I was wondering about the title and author for many years as these pages were missing.  I had lost hopes of getting the information anywhere.  It is a book full of hundreds of old pictures and a wealth of information on many places of India, a truly monumental work and obviously, the pictures are pre-1895.  It is actually a collector's item.  I made a search also on the Internet when this became accessible to me and was glad that to find out that it is still available.  Here is a link to the portrait picture of the author, Furneaux. (click) 

Yet another book which fascinated me was also full of pictures.  It is titled "World's best photographs". It is a book in which The Times of India is involved in publishing, before 1950 or so.  There are some really fantastic pictures and the ones that I always liked to look often were these:

I never tire from turning their pages even now. Doing that, I backtrack in the time-machine, relive those times and hop back to reality!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Zoology Practical Dissection

Yesterday's newspaper carried a write-up of my friend Niranjan about his experience in 'specimen dissection' at Sarada Vilas College.  I thought I would reminisce about mine too, from 1975 at the same college.

In the two-year Pre-University Course (equivalent to 11 and 12), Zoology Practicals was part of the curriculum.  Dissection was only in the second year and not in the first year, if my memory is not failing me.  As soon as our first Zoology classes began, we were told to buy a 'dissection set'. A pair of small surgical scissors, a scalpel and two types of tweezers were basic implements that were needed to start with.  I think I bought the tweezers from Anand Bhavan Stores and the rest were bought from a stationery store. Those students who had great plans to join the medical course later had bought better sets!

The same tweezers from 1975.

For our syllabus, there was the Earthworm, Cockroach and Frog/Toad to be dissected during the course.  The Practical Record Book was another important part and neater illustrations drawn by us attracted more marks. The entire Practicals carried 25 marks out of 100.  

This fellow lived in my pond last year. 

I have always been one - not one in a million, but among millions! -  to nauseate and run miles at the sight of a cockroach, leave alone slap at it with a broom when they were sighted in our house in their nocturnal outings.  The roach is a horrible little blooming pest. Earthworms were found when we dug the earth in our garden and this slimy creamy creature always reminded of the worms that infested our intestines and since we had seen a few pass out, this was also absolutely awful.  The toads were making their appearances with their croaks before the rains and they were not that repulsive. 

Well before our practical classes started, my classmate-friend Gopi on Bajjanna Lane had a neighbour in Srinivas, our senior (happens to be Niranjan's classmate).  Srinivas arranged to demonstrate the dissection of a cockroach in his home, at the behest of Gopi who invited me also.  It was such an awful sight to see the dead roach kept on its back and pinned to the board, ready.  I am feeling awful as the mental video is playing now and so I will not elaborate further!  With great reluctance I watched Srinivas' demonstration from a distance and he touching it with his hand itself was nauseating to me.  That I was to do it later, esp. the horrible roach, was the greatest fear and already I was contemplating ways of my skipping the class at all costs.  What if it came in the final exam?

If I remember right, the staff put off dissections of earthworm and the 'wretched roach' for reasons best known to them.  Perhaps it was their scarcity or trouble to catch so many to supply to students, I will never know.  Whatever, it was sweet news to me. But the news always used to come out after great suspense and at the 9th or 10th hour, if not the 11th!  Anyway, I was prepared to escape these two 'subjects' but had to manage 'doing' the toad because minimum attendance was an absolute requirement to qualify for appearing in the exam.  

Luckily for me, there was only one Practical that I attended which featured toad dissection.  That toad given to all of us were still alive inside and even as we cut open its skin, the heart was still pumping. Awful sight for me and we had to kill it to get marks. The brain was removed, the digestive and reproductive systems had to be neatly separated and 'shown'. That I did manage to do all this without touching it with my fingers at any stage is a great achievement for me, though I had to tolerate the sight and that typically bad smell of formalin. With the help of the tweezer, I held the nails and hammered its legs to the wooden board to start with.  Some students wanted to show how brave they were by holding the toad by its legs and did the dissection as if it was only a vegetable!

The dissection ended satisfactorily and the next one many weeks later was the final practical exam. We knew that only the toad would be given for the exam.  Again, I did it without touching the specimen and did the 'separation of the reproductive system' okay, much to my great relief.  

The two tweezers I had bought for that purpose continued to serve me in my watch-repair hobby that got stuck to me soon after and they still come in handy when I find the need to remove some small wood splinters that get into my skin at times. They always remind me of the awful feeling from 1975 and for the way I went through it that time. The small scissors and scalpel have disappeared.

Kemar Roach!  What a name!  Roach!  He is now playing for the West Indies Cricket team in the World Cup that is going on in India.